Hydroponic Gardens Recycle More than Just Water

By: Charlene Rennick

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Recycling is the process of re-using materials or creating a new item out of parts of old ones.  It is a way of extending the function of materials and reducing the amount of waste with which we burden the environment.  Recycling decreases the amount of natural resources we have to remove from the Earth to furbish our existence.  

The extraction of resources uses energy which releases chemicals that add to the greenhouse effect.  Carbon emissions account for 12% of global warming and are produced by the use of fossil fuels.  Any method we can use that will ease the volume of greenhouse emissions will help to support keeping our planet clean and green.

Hydroponic gardens use seven to ten times less land than outdoor soil-based gardens.  Locating gardens in urban areas relieves the necessity of shipping produce in refrigerated trucks over long distances that leave a trail of carbon emissions.  Fertilizers and pesticides used to enrich soil and prevent insect infestations, contaminate our fresh water supply and require fossil-fuelled machinery to remove them.

Hydroponically grown plants use water to sustain the roots.  The root system absorbs the nutrient-rich water throughout the plant.  The hydroponic system minimizes the amount of water required to promote plant growth.    No water is lost through run-off or contaminated by non-biodegradable or toxic solutions.   

Hydroponic gardens produce a higher yield in less space.  This conservative method of gardening makes more effective use of the resources required to produce fruit and vegetables.

Using water as growing medium requires less artificial heat sources than a more solid growing medium because of the molecular structure.  Direct sunlight on the nutrient-rich water solution will warm up more quickly than the dense soil.

Harvesting rain water is another method currently in use commercial hydroponic operations.  Although rain water catchment for residential purposes should carefully avoid contamination from oil-based adhesives on roof tiles, some small scale rain water collection can be filtered to use for misting and indoor cultivation.  Harvested rainwater helps conserve the amount of fresh water used for indoor residential needs, outdoor irrigation, or both.

The quality of rainwater can vary depending on the number of pollutants it must pass through before it ends up in the catchment basin. In general, rain water is fine to use for irrigation.  Because it doesn’t flow through rocks and soil, it is soft and free from water hardening minerals that can clog and encrust your hydroponic equipment.  As a base for nutrient solvency in hydroponic gardens, its acid-alkaline balance complements a neutral pH level, making it healthy for plants.

If the populations of Toronto and Ottawa were combined, the total would be about three and a half million. If everyone saved 100 gallons of water per year, that is three hundred and fifty million gallons of water saved.    Every drop counts.

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